Scientific Research About Hypnosis In Childbirth

There is a growing body of evidence to say that hypnotherapy can have positive, far-reaching effects both physically and emotionally on mothers and babies.  Some of the studies outlined below are randomised, have large numbers, include control groups and demonstrate statistical significance.  Research is continuing into the use of hypnosis in childbirth.  

There is also a fast growing body of evidence from mothers and their birth partners describing the beneficial effects of HypnoBirthing® The Mongan Method.  Information from these births can be found on...

Effect of hypnosis on length of labour

Hao et al in China measured the effect of suggestions from medical personnel, made to labouring women and recommends that the conversation of the nurses be "controlled carefully for the purpose of advancing the birth process". This randomised control trial examined 60 first time mothers with a matched control group of 60 first time mothers and found a statistically significant reduction in the lengths of the first and second stages of labour.

Jenkins and Pritchard found a reduction of 3 hours for prim gravid women (from 9.3 hours to 6.4 hours) and 1 hour for multi gravid women (from 6.2 hours to 5.3 hours) for active labour (262 subjects and 600 controls). Pushing was  shorter for first time mothers (from 50 min to 37 min).

In a study that compared hypnosis and Lamaze training, 96 women chose between hypnosis (45) and Lamaze (51). The first stage of labour was shortened in the hypnosis group by 98 minutes for first time mothers and by 40 minutes for second time mothers.  Women who used hypnosis were more satisfied with their labour and reported other benefits of hypnosis such as reduced anxiety and help with getting to sleep.

A British study found a statistically significant reduction in the length of labour of first and second time mothers: 70 hypnosis patients (6 h 21 min) compared to 70 relaxation patients (9 h 28 min) and 70 control group (9 h 45 min).

Abramson and Heron found a shorter first stage of labour for 100 women using hypnosis (by 3.23 hours) compared to a control group of 88 women.  Forty-five of the women using hypnosis (first time mothers) had an average of 4.5 hours in active labour, a significant reduction compared to the usual 12 hours.

Use of Medication

In a British study, 55% of 45 patients using hypnosis (first and second time mothers) required no medication for pain relief.  In the non-hypnosis group, only 22% of 90 women required no medication. Two other research studies reported on 1,000 consecutive births: 850 women used hypnotic analgesia resulting in a 58% rate of no medication.  Five other research pieces reported an incidence of 60 to 79% non-medicated births.

A retrospective survey assessed an epidural rate of 18% in Southern Ontario, where the epidural rate in most hospitals is 40 to 95% for first time mothers.

Rates of Intervention

In a randomised control trial of 42 teenagers in Florida, none of the 22 patients in the hypnosis group experienced surgical intervention compared with 12 of the 20 patients in the control group. Twelve patients in the hypnosis group experienced complications compared with 17 in the control group.

Harmon, Hynan and Tyre reported more spontaneous deliveries, higher Apgar scores (The Apgar score is the first test given to a baby immediately after birth.  It is designed to quickly evaluate a new-born’s physical condition and to determine any immediate need for extra medical or emergency care) and reduced medication use in their study of 60 women.  Of the 45 women using hypnosis, 38 delivered without the use of caesarean, forceps or vacuum, a rate of spontaneous birth of 84%. This is a higher than average rate of normal birth for the general population of first time mothers.

Effect of hypnosis on complications, surgery and length of hospital stay.

The Journal of Family Practice, Effects of Hypnosis on the Labour Processes and Birth Outcomes of Pregnant Adolescents states in its conclusion that ‘Our study provides support for the use of hypnosis to aid in preparation of obstetric patients for labour and delivery. The reduction of complications, surgery and hospital stay show direct medical benefit to mother and child and suggest the potential for a corresponding cost-saving benefit.


In a randomised control trial of 42 teenagers in Florida, only 1 patient in the hypnosis group of 22 had a hospital stay of more than two days compared with 8 patients in the control group.

Postpartum Depression

McCarthy provided five 30-minute sessions to 600 women and found a virtual absence of postpartum depression, compared to the typical rates of 10 to 15%. Women with a history of postpartum depression did not develop this condition, even though an estimated 50% eventually do. Harmon et al also reported lower depression scores in the hypnotically treated group.


  • SF. Clinical study on shortening the birth process using psychological suggestion therapy. Hao TY, Li YH, Yao. Zhonghua Hu Li Za Zhi. 1997 Oct; 32(10):568-70. (General Military Hospital of Jinan, P.R. China.)
  • Hypnosis: Practical applications and theoretical considerations in normal labour. British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Jenkins, M.W., & Pritchard, M.H 100(3), 221-226, 1993.
  • Comparison of hypnosis with conventional relaxation for antenatal and intrapartum use: A feasibility study in general practice. Brann LR, Guzvica SA. J R Coll Gen Pract 1987; 37:437-440.
  • An assessment of the value of hypnosis in pregnancy and labour. Davidson, J, MD.Br Med Journal Oct 13, 1962, 951-953.
  • Practical experiences with a modified hypnosis-delivery. Mellegren, A.Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics, 14, 425-428, 1966.
  • Obstetric hypnoanesthesia. August, R.V.American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 79, 1131-1137, 1960, and August, R.V. Hypnosis in obstetrics. New York: McGraw Hill, 1961.
  • Healing From Within: The use of hypnosis in women's health care. Hornyak, Lynne M. and Joseph P. Green.Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2000.
  • The Effects of Hypnosis on the Labor Processes and Birth Outcomes of Pregnant Adolescents. Alice A. Martin, PhD; Paul G. Schauble, PhD; Surekha H. Rai, PhD; and R. Whit
  • The Journal of Family Practice, Curry, Jr, MD May 2001, 50(5): 441-443.
  • Improved obstetric outcomes using hypnotic analgesia and skill mastery combined with childbirth education. Harmon, T.M., Hynan, M., & Tyre, T.E. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 58, 525, 530, 1990.
  • Hypnosis in obstetrics. McCarthy, P.Australian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 26, 35-42, 1998.

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